Five Trends Identified That Will Drive 2021’s Workplace

The upheavals of 2020 are likely to influence 2021’s workplace culture. Employee recognition and award solutions provider O.C. Tanner looks ahead at five trends it sees for next year, driven by this year’s transformations.

Workplace culture is due for a renewed focus in 2021. Companies will be returning from many months of working from home or settling into a new remote work model, and possibly dealing with the aftermath of layoffs, furloughs or shuttered facilities. Fears of COVID-19 in the workplace are also likely to continue into 2021. O.C. Tanner notes that an emphasis on culture can help keep employees tethered to a company and its mission during the transition, and that non-thriving corporate cultures are 10 times more likely to be negatively affected by crisis than those that are doing well.

Employers and employees are adapting to remote work, and a New York Times study found that only 20 percent of workers wanted to return to the office full time. The research also found that 60 percent of U.S. workers can’t work from home, but social distancing and sanitization measures will still have an effect on what that looks like. O.C. Tanner says that in 2021 companies will need to define what the new status quo looks like and how it impacts various aspects of work life, including employee experiences and recognition.

2021 will also bring a refreshed emphasis on inclusive workplaces and employees’ expectations of their employers regarding diversity and inclusion shifts. They are likely to expect businesses to take a stand on injustice and inequity. Rather than hiring quotas and unconscious bias training, O.C. Tanner sees a new focus on helping employees be their authentic selves. It also advises employers to address areas of exclusion and bias, and work to incorporate inclusion into all aspects of employees’ work environment.

Generation Z will further influence the workplace in 2021. The most diverse generation in the U.S., they are connected to social issues and are more likely to want their jobs to make a difference in society. O.C. Tanner notes that rather than brand or reputation, what they want most from their workplace is a sense of community and wellbeing, and thus it’s important to connect the work they do to the organization’s purpose and show how it is making a difference. Mentorship, coaching and teaching are also important modern leadership skills in reaching the group.

The pandemic is driving digital transformation this year and into next, as new tools keep distributed employees connected and productive. Mobile tools, data security and fast internet connectivity are also more important. However, O.C. Tanner has found that only 53 percent of employees feel their company takes their needs into account when considering new technology. It advises businesses keep employee experience in mind when adopting any new technologies, and ensure adequate communication and training alongside any changes.

For O.C. Tanner’s full white paper, click here.

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